Kerrelyn Sparks: Eat Prey Love

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Kerrelyn Sparks Eat Prey Love
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Wanted: Bride. Must love children. Mortals need not apply. Carlos Panterra is looking for a mate, a woman who will love and care for the young orphans he's recently taken under his wing (or paw, as the case may be). When the shape shifter spies the beautiful Caitlyn, it's like sunshine amidst the darkness. At last, he's found the perfect woman, except . . . Caitlyn Whelan is mortal. Worse, her father is the head of a CIA agency bent on hunting the undead. Still, Caitlyn knows that Carlos is the man for her, shape shifter or not. So she jumps at the chance when her sister offers her a job to work with him, determined to show Carlos their attraction is more than just animal magnetism. But danger lurks in the night, and their unleashed, untamed passion might just get them both killed . . .

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Eat Prey Love

(The ninth book in the Love at Stake series)


A novel by

Kerrelyn Sparks

In memory of all the beloved pets

who filled our lives with joy

for too short of a time—

Liesl, Precious, Megan,

and Lestat, the original Mr. Foofikins.

Chapter One

Caitlyn had been warned never to come near this place. Gutsy or foolish, she didn’t know which category she fell into, but it was too late to worry about that now. She had arrived.

Her rental car’s headlights illuminated a smooth, black-topped driveway. Tall trees arched over the road, their skeletal branches grasping like gnarled fingers at the starlit sky. She suppressed a shudder and focused instead on the patches of bright yellow daffodils scattered over the grounds.

Looking for the positive, she would call it. Foolhardy, some might say. But when facing the unknown, she’d learned in her twenty-six years that keeping a good attitude was critical. The fact that the grounds appeared well-maintained was a good sign. And the security guard at the entrance had seemed friendly, checking her ID and welcoming her with a smile.

Think of this as an adventure. You love adventure.

Even so, her grip tightened on the steering wheel as she watched the heavy wrought-iron gate swing shut in her rearview mirror. The metallic clang echoed around the barren trees and vibrated through her bones.

She was locked in.

Dad had to be wrong. This place couldn’t be dangerous. She’d looked it up on the Internet before coming. Romatech Industries manufactured synthetic blood, then shipped it to hospitals and clinics around the world. The CEO and inventor, Roman Draganesti, was credited with saving thousands of lives every year. Who could object to that?

She proceeded down the long driveway that snaked through extensive grounds. Maybe Dad was referring to the bombing she’d read about. That had happened three years ago, though, and nothing dangerous had occurred since then. She was perfectly safe, she assured herself, as a dimly lit, sprawling building came into view.

Neatly clipped hedges lined the wings that spread from the building’s center. Overhead lamps shone down on the dozen or so cars in the parking lot, while insects buzzed in each lamp’s halo of light. She parked her rented Camry and glanced warily at the entrance.

Dad was being overly dramatic, that was all. But why would he want to keep her away from her sister? Was he concerned that a reunion would cause her emotional distress? Caitlyn had to admit she didn’t know what to expect from a sister she hadn’t heard from in six years.

She’d been shocked when two days ago she’d received a card from her older sister. Shanna had acquired a new last name: Draganesti. Was she married to the CEO of Romatech? When had that happened? Shanna had included a photo of her son and daughter, and she’d invited Caitlyn to a birthday party for Constantine, who was turning four in late March.

Caitlyn had stared, dumbstruck, at the photo for five minutes. She hadn’t known she had a nephew and niece. Mom and Dad had never mentioned it. How could they fail to brag about their grandchildren? The invitation had arrived at the extended-stay hotel where Caitlyn had found a room after returning to the States a week earlier. How had Shanna known where she was?

The last communication she’d had from Shanna was a birthday card in July 2004. Shortly after that, Shanna disappeared without a trace. Almost a year later, Dad had announced that he’d located her. She’d been given a new identity through the Witness Protection program.

Dad had been vague on the details, only saying that she was lost to them forever. They must all stay away from a place called Romatech Industries. Shanna had changed. She could no longer be trusted. She was to be avoided at all cost.

She’s still my sister. Caitlyn had to know the truth. She climbed out of the car with her handbag and gift for Constantine. Dad would go ballistic if he knew she was here. He was already pissed by her recent fiasco. The fact that she’d made a mistake for good reasons didn’t matter. She was still screwed. Her career ruined. Blacklisted from the State Department. No job, no home, and a quickly dwindling amount in her savings account.

Coming here to see Shanna could be another mistake, but dammit, she wanted her sister back. And she’d never been one to shy away from a challenging situation. She slammed the car door to accentuate her rebellious determination, then marched toward the entrance.

She was about twenty minutes late, having made some wrong turns. She knew her way around Minsk, St. Petersburg, Bangkok, and Jakarta, but White Plains, New York, was a foreign land to her. She could hear shouts and laughter in the distance, so hopefully that meant the party was still in full swing.

Her stride slowed as a nagging question returned, one that had bothered her since she’d first opened the invitation. Who would throw a birthday party for a four-year-old at nine o’clock at night? Granted, she didn’t have any experience with raising children, but still, didn’t kids usually go to bed about that time?

She paused mid-step when the front door swung open. A column of light spilled out, framing the dark silhouette of a huge man.

“Miss Whelan?” His voice was deep and gravelly. He moved to the edge of the light and became more visible.

“Yes.” Another security guard, Caitlyn assumed, since he was well over six feet tall and looked as indestructible as an army tank. He was dressed in the same khaki pants and navy polo shirt as the man at the front gate.

“How do you do? I’m Howard Barr.” He motioned to the open door. “Come in.”

“I hope I’m not too late.” Caitlyn stepped into a wide foyer and glanced around. Potted plants, nice artwork on the walls, a gleaming marble floor…and no Shanna. No one there at all.

She swallowed hard as the huge security guard shut the door and locked it. “Shanna’s here, isn’t she?”

“Sure. The party’s in the cafeteria. I’ll take you there in just a minute.” Howard gave her an apologetic look as he stepped behind a table. “I have to check your bags first. Standard procedure, nothing personal.”

“I understand.” Caitlyn placed her bags on the table. “Is there still a problem with people bombing Romatech?”

Howard shook his head as he rummaged through the silk handbag she’d bought in Singapore. “It’s been calm lately.”

“It seems like an odd place for a child’s birthday party.”

He shrugged. “Shanna set up a nursery next to her office, so the little ones spend a lot of time here.”

“Oh.” Shanna had an office in a scientific research facility? “I thought my sister was a dentist.”

“She is. She has a dental office here.” Howard slid her red silk handbag to her with a puzzled look. “You didn’t know that?”

“No. I’ve been out of the country and…out of touch. I didn’t know she had children or that she was even married until I received the invitation to this party. Her husband is Roman Draganesti?”

“Yes.” Howard frowned as he plunged his large beefy hands into the gift bag. “I can’t believe you didn’t know.”

Caitlyn winced. The blue and red crepe paper she’d carefully arranged was being crushed. “For some reason, my dad never told me.”

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